Jill Hope

Northamptonshire County Councillor for Sixfields - a Lib Dem campaigner working all year round, not just at election time Learn more

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Camp Hill Community Centre – decision time

by Jill Hope on 2 April, 2011

ON 31 MARCH many of the regular users of the Camp Hill Community Centre attended a meeting with the management committee to discuss the future of the Centre.

The regular users – like karate, WI, The Hills Community Association, Scouts, Slimming World – were concerned because the management committee had all announced that they would be resigning at the meeting.

The Borough Council wants to hand over control of community centres to the community in the areas where they are located.

If the centres are run with the help of volunteers on a not-for-profit basis, the local community can continue to enjoy good facilities at competitive prices. Not-for-profit organisations or social enterprises are allowed to run a business at a profit and pay staff, but profits are ploughed back into the organisation, not taken out.

If the council hands the running of the centres over to a commercial organisation, hire charges will inevitably rise.

Camp Hill Community Centre is fortunate. It is relatively new, and in good condition. It is extremely well-used with 24 user groups. It has money in the bank and is making a respectable profit.

Many of the older community centres in other areas are badly in need of renovation and are poorly-used, so they are running at a loss.

The meeting on 31 March was divided.

Some users simply wanted to hand the whole shooting match over to a commercial company and be done with it. They didn’t care that booking charges would rise.

Others were nervous about the idea of running a business, and didn’t feel that they had the time or skills to do that.

A few users liked the idea of putting the running of the centre into the hands of the local community, and with a reasonable sum in the bank they knew they could employ people immediately.

As most of the people at the meeting didn’t understand exactly what might be expected of a managing committee if the centre did become a social enterprise, I volunteered to organise a meeting between the users, the current committee, a council officer and a social enterprise specialist, so that everyone could decide the way forward in complete understanding of what was required.

This decision was agreed by a majority, and 15 people committed to attending this meeting, subject to availability.

As a gesture of goodwill the existing committee agreed to remain in post until these issues were resolved.

STOP PRESS: See latest posting of 8 April

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